The Tipping Point

Tel'aran'rhiod and Portal Worlds
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Matty
"The Path of Daggers"
Posts: 964
Joined: December 16th, 2015, 8:19 pm
PC: Murdock Mather, Keeper of the Archives
SC: Nathaniel Carridus, Asha'man (Blue)
TC: Maever Donovan, Asha'man (Yellow)
Location: Plain of Lances, UK

The Tipping Point

Post by Matty » April 3rd, 2016, 8:02 pm

The Tipping Point - "What If" entry.
Sometimes you have to exercise your insanity, to really make it strong. - Flula Borg
An explosion rocked the training yards of the Black Tower, but nobody paid it any mind. As long as no buildings were compromised, the land was used and abused repeatedly by the men learning to channel. But at the end of the day the final exercise would be to smooth over the rubble and soil to something resembling what it once was, compact earth ripe for farming. But beneath the calm veneer the soil was screaming silently, remembering being torn apart over and over...

"Soldier, you aren't listening again." There was exasperation lacing the Dedicated's weary tone as he looked at Murdock, who was gazing out of the window of the Spartan classroom. Murdock had the grace to blush, straightening up as he saluted the Dedicated and faced the front of the room again in his seat.

"My apologies, Dedicated," he said quietly. But he was distracted. A daydreamer, his teachers said, and not all that talented with what he could do either. As soon as he learned control, he would probably be set to menial tasks until the Last Battle, where he would be used as fodder. All the while he might even believe he was useful.

At least this lesson was over for the day. Murdock sighed as he left the classroom, trying to remember what he had been learning, and failing to do so. He didn't mean to be so distracted, but it was hard to focus when he was thinking of Giselle, what she was up to, and the prospect of bonding her as many of the men here did with their wives.

Oh yeah, it was warding! No wonder Murdock couldn't remember much, wards were just so... dull.

The yard was strangely still, no rumbles or shakes from Saidin any longer. This was rarely the case as the Black Tower's numbers swelled daily, and Murdock couldn't help but poke his head around the corner of the building to get a look and see what training was going on. He would be there that evening, tearing the ground asunder with the other Soldiers and trying not to get hit in the head by flying rocks. That was what should be happening right now, but instead...

"Where's Murdock?!" came a timely shout from one of the men in the yards. A group of men were huddled together, a sea of black, with some of the men peeking up above the makeshift barricade and surveying the area. Upon seeing Murdock, there was a general cry of his name. Stomach flopping, he hurried on over.

"Light burn me, what's the matter?" he asked, the question hanging in the air as he came to a standstill where the black wall of men had parted for him.

It was Giselle, sprawled on the ground, more red than cream (her favourite coloured dress, terrible for stains though). Her lovely face was unmarked, at great odds with the gaping injuries to her chest and stomach.

"It was an accident," one of the men started to say, but Murdock didn't hear anything or anyone else as he dropped to his knees in front of his wife. He found the emptiness of Saidin with no resistance or hesitation, putting his hands out to delve his wife even as she lay there. Barely alive, internal bleeding, injured organs, lots of blood loss and broken ribs. The list went on.

Well, it wouldn't Heal itself.

Murdock had no real experience of Healing, but he knew the theory behind it well enough and he saw how the Asha'man had Healed his daughters when they came down with that fever. Right now though, there was nothing to lose from trying because a moment later and Giselle would be dead.

No, she wouldn't. Murdock was not going to let that happen.

"Heal, Burn you," Murdock growled as the weaves formed with an intricacy and skill none had seen come from the man in any of his other lessons. Desperation spurred instinct, and skill added a much needed weight to luck; the silence of the yards was suddenly broken by the ragged breathing of a weak, unconscious woman. Weak and unconscious, but alive. Blessedly alive.

Murdock scooped Giselle up in his arms and stood, his normally vacant dark eyes sharp and intent. "Someone run ahead and make sure there is a bed free in the Infirmary," he ordered, his docile voice replaced by a sharper, angrier one. He set off at a steady pace with his wife in his arms, careless of the blood marking his uniform. He looked behind him at the group of men, Soldiers and Dedicated who equally watched him warily. "Never tell me who was responsible for this. I would hate to hang for killing a fellow trainee."

-

The Healing was nothing short of a miracle. How an untrained Soldier, barely able to make an explosion or set a dummy on fire, could use such intricate and powerful weaves was unknown to most of the Asha'man. It was something to do with need and desire, it was so determined. Given his block, this made sense to any psychoanalyst who thought to look into Murdock's sudden change of demeanour. Giselle was weak, but days later she had recovered with barely a scar to show for her trouble; Murdock never bounced back as she did.

Normally men were not encouraged to attempt Healing until they were raised to Dedicated. Murdock was put in these lessons, and a short while later it was decided that he was skilled enough to Heal with the other Dedicated who showed an aptitude - a skill which was only going to increase over time with training and practice. Murdock was probably proud to have the sword pin, it was a step closer to being fully Raised to Asha'man, but he instead found himself more dissatisfied than anything else. He dithered over the wellbeing of his wife, reluctant to leave her even after he placed the bond on her. He could feel her wherever he went and knew how she was feeling, but what if something was to happen to her again? Murdock couldn't stand to lose her. She and the girls were all he had. Well, he had Saidin as well, sweet tempting Saidin, and his Healing.

"I'm fine Murdock, honestly," Giselle assured the man for the umpteenth time that day. She was cooking a modest supper for the evening, the girls out having lessons with their peers. Murdock regularly popped back between his own lessons to ensure his wife was not in need of anything else. "You don't need to check on me all the time."

"Yes I do," Murdock said, his dark eyes unblinking as he looked at her. Giselle broke her gaze first and turned back to the chopping board. In Far Madding, even the hint of an instruction would have had the man nodding and smiling, doing whatever he could to please her, but instead he seemed more focussed and driven, traces of Asha'man arrogance giving the tall man a posture he never took advantage of before. She told herself it was the Black Tower, making him an Asha'man rather than a good Far Madding husband, but she and the Black Tower both knew this to be a lie.

"I'm going to go buy some more carrots," Giselle decided. Staying in this kitchen with his eyes latched onto her made her itch almost, and with the bond he knew it.

Rather than comment on this, Murdock said "you don't need to, I can get them. I'll be back in a moment." A good Far Madding husband would do that for his wife, but because she told him to, not because he wanted to take the power from her. That was all she could interpret it as.

"No," Murdock turned back to look at her, as if reading her mind. "I'm keeping you safe because I love you."

Safe from carrots?

There were men who were skilled in the art of Healing, studying the mind and how it worked. One of them might be able to intervene, but as time passed it became more and more difficult for Giselle to do anything without Murdock's supervision. The bond, which had been a comfort at first, became stifling. Murdock could find her at any time and Giselle, for all of her spirited nature and feisty Far Madding ways, was finding it exhausting to argue with her husband. Why couldn't he do as he was told? Giselle wanted to shake him sometimes, but those dark eyes were so unsettling, she found herself nodding with less and less resistance beforehand. This wasn't right. She knew it, and the girls could tell as well. They said nothing, easier to cow into obedience than their mother, but the question was in their eyes. Giselle had no answer for them.

-

“When I am Asha’man,” Murdock said over dinner one evening, “we’re going to move away.”

Giselle lowered her knife and fork, looking across at her husband. Direct orders were not the Far Madding way, but it seemed she had given those up when they left for the Black Tower. Murdock certainly seemed to have shaken them off now. “Where did you have in mind?” she asked.

“There’s farmland in Illian that’s for the taking. Plenty of land to spare.” Murdock’s tone brooked no argument over the matter.

“I don’t want to live on a farm,” Grace said automatically, her teenage years giving her more of a tongue than she usually had. “I like it here.”

“Here isn’t safe,” Murdock told Grace. “Illian is. We’ll have a great time there.”

Grace looked to her mother uncertainly. Help, her expression said.

The blonde woman leaned forwards, channelling everything her mother had taught her into her tone. “No we won’t,” Giselle said. “The girls like it here, and I do as well. You want to take us away so we are safer, but that’s not what we want. Only you.”

“I know what is best for my family,” Murdock told Giselle, “the Last Battle is coming and the Black Tower won’t protect us forever. In Illian, I can. I can work the land, set some wards for us-“

“Wards? I thought you hated wards,” Giselle said.

“I do, but I learned the ones I could use to protect us,” Murdock told her patiently.

“I think we need to talk about this when the girls have gone to bed.” All four of them were looking at their parents, mostly their mother. Murdock’s gaze put off more than just his wife, now.

“There’s nothing to talk about. I’ll be Raised soon and when I am, I’ll make us a Gateway.” Murdock returned to eating his dinner. He was the only person at the table with any appetite.

-

There were times when Murdock was in lessons that he couldn’t get out of. During these times Giselle prepared. Letters, delivered by Grace, were made to the M’Hael and the Master of Soldiers. In turn, they kept Murdock occupied with Asha’man training as they returned letters of their own. There was not much time before the man would question why he wasn’t being Raised, but once the plans were set in motion it would be too quick to come to that.

There was nothing Giselle herself could directly do. Murdock was acutely aware of the bond, whether he was in the same room or at the other end of the Black Tower. Even if she knew directly what would happen, he could infer something was wrong and get suspicious. No, she had to know the bare minimum, and that would work for her. She also didn’t want to know what would happen or when. Murdock was her husband, in spite of everything.

Murdock was none the wiser when he went out for his lessons that morning. He was excited about his potential Raising soon – he’d heard rumours of it happening soon, from various Asha’man – and he was eager to go visit some of these farms with Giselle. She would love it there. They’d live out their days tending crops and letting their daughters marry simple farmers, then the Last Battle would ride right on over them. Nothing would happen to hurt his family if he had anything to do with it.

Into the training grounds he went, smiling a little at the men already there. How sad it must be for them, to go through life without a woman like Giselle in their lives! Oh, some of them were married themselves, but they weren’t married to Giselle. She was his, all his, and they would never share in his happiness. He pitied them.

“Hey Murdock, how’s it going?” asked one of the lads, a short fellow by the name of Bryce. He was a Dedicated who couldn’t Heal a lick, but he could move the earth as well as any Asha’man. Today he had a tray with some mugs on, not exactly common on the grounds but it was pretty hot today.

“Not so bad,” Murdock said, “waiting for Asha’man Patrick to turn up for my lesson. He’s always late.”

“Tell me about it,” Bryce agreed. “Here, want some cold tea?”

“Sure,” Murdock took one of the offered mugs and had a drink of it. Hrrmm, minty. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Bryce said. “I’ve got to go, the M’Hael will have my hide if I don’t get him his drinks, but it’s been good training with you Murdock.”

“Er, you as well,” Murdock said warily. That sounded weirdly like a goodbye... Maybe my training is closer to an end than I thought. He drank some more of his tea, smiling at the possibility of wearing the dragon pin soon.

Murdock blinked a couple of times, a little dizzy all of a sudden. He checked the bond, but Giselle seemed to be fine. Good, it wasn’t her, it was just him. Probably the heat of the sun, hotter than it looked or something. Murdock found a large rock to sit on, sipping some more tea and putting a hand to his head. He didn’t think he was that tired, but now he sat down he thought he could sleep through the day. Hold on, the man looked down at the drink in his hands. The cool, minty tea was something he hadn’t tried before, but his lessons in herbcraft should have told him what he had given himself.

“What...? Why?” Murdock asked, drowsy now. Before he could attempt to seize Saidin, a blow to the back of his head rendered him unconscious.

-

Two years later:

The wedding of Bryce and Giselle was a small, happy affair at the Black Tower. The girls tottered behind their beaming mother carrying bouquets of flowers, and Bryce’s two sons shuffled at the back of the entourage, their straight backs balancing out the girl’s giddiness.

Giselle let Bryce offer her a hand up into the carriage waiting outside the building. She had come to accept that sometimes it was nice for a lady to be treated as a lady, though Bryce was also quite aware of how self sufficient she was. A lot of the decisions had been hers, from the first date to the proposal to where they would enjoy their wedding night. Bryce had no objections. It was nice to be in control again... though every so often, when Bryce channelled his inner leader as an Asha’man, her legs shook and she couldn’t help but swoon. By the Light, the balance was perfect. Giselle was grateful for the second chance.

The carriage rode away, the children were looked after by Bryce’s brother, and the few guests departed as well. As the last of the wedding goers left, a tall man with vacant brown eyes and a grubby grey uniform shuffled over to sweep the confetti from the ground. His head was down and his brushing was slow and steady, as if he had no idea what he was cleaning and who it was for. That would be because he didn’t.
Image
------ Murdock -------------- Nathaniel --------------- Maever -------

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